SA Rugby have issued a statement after SANZAAR confirmed the Springboks would not be participating in the 2020 Rugby Championship in Australia. SANZAAR officials will now press ahead with a Tri-Nations Championship and have announced an amended fixtures schedule.
The SA Rugby statement on the withdrawal of the Springboks read: “The on-going complications related to the Covid-19 pandemic and concerns about seriously jeopardising player welfare made it impossible to commit to SANZAAR that South Africa would be able to compete.
“The South African-based portion of what was a 46-player squad was scheduled to fly from Johannesburg on Sunday. However, government regulations as currently drafted meant it was unclear whether the team would legally be able to depart. In addition, mounting concerns relating to player welfare were a major concern.”
Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO, added: “With time essentially having run out, it left us with no option. This is a hugely disappointing outcome for our supporters and commercial partners but the on-going impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations means we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare.
“SANZAAR and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them, their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 16, 2020
Roux continued that the local challenges were compounded by the fact that the 24 overseas-based players identified for potential selection (depending on Covid-19 status) and for whom visas had been applied were based with European or Japanese clubs.
“Players in England, Ireland, France and Japan are subject to differing local regulations and travel protocols and potentially imminent renewed lockdowns in some territories,” he explained. “It was unclear when they would be able to become functioning members of the Springbok squad in Australia.
“We understand that public safety concerns come first and there is no way that we could expect short cuts to be found to get them out of their host countries and into the Springbok bubble. But the impact on our planning was profound and took us to a bottom line that we could not in fairness commit to being able to compete.”
Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus added that his department had planned for every scenario. “We worked out that the players needed a minimum of 400 minutes of game time before they could be ready for a Test match,” said Erasmus.
“The overseas-based players had started playing before us and they would have been getting close to that time by 7 November. But many of those have completed their programmes or have had Covid outbreaks which have interrupted the planning. The Japanese based players haven’t played any rugby at all, while the home-based players would be well short of 400 minutes by the time of kick-off.”
SA-based players played their first competitive matches last weekend, 29 weeks after their last competitive match in Super Rugby. In contrast, New Zealand and Australia players contested a Test match last Saturday, 17 weeks and 14 weeks respectively after they resumed competitive club rugby.
Roux said: “It has been an extremely challenging year and what started out as a two-week lockdown evolved into a global crisis, one of whose side effects has been to decimate our rugby calendar. It seems impossible that the Springboks won’t play a Test match in 2020, but public health and safety have been the primary concern and we have been collateral damage like so many businesses.
“All we can do now is enjoy our domestic competitions and find ways to be ready for the arrival of the British and Irish Lions in 2021.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 15, 2020
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